As I sit here listening to my collection of music from the ?70?s, I can?t help but dwell on Rugby League as it was back in years gone by. Way back when Rugby League was played by men who by and large were amateurs.
These were men who sees the game not as a primary source of income, ordinary men from all walks of life, men with passion for Rugby League. Not that it really mattered what their profession was, all that mattered was a common love for the game they play.
Back in those days Passion, Courage & Loyalty really meant something. Sure our game still has those qualities amongst individuals but would they play the game as others did before them? I wonder how many of the 400 or so 1st grade NRL players would play at the same level for their club if they were paid an amount equivalent to what was on offer as an amateur.
Financial rewards back then were nothing more than a token of appreciation. But these men were not after financial rewards were they? They played together as mates. They were revered by fans who acknowledge the special character required to play the game at the highest a level. Stuff that the fans of the game could only imagine.
How did a person end up playing for the club in those early days? Some where probably recruited at some local watering hole at some stage of their lives. Some even find their way to the top grade as a natural progression playing for their junior club.
These days, clubs tend to rely on their respective recruitment officers to address perceived deficiencies in their playing roster. These highly skilled individuals scour the nation for talent looking individuals which meet their clubs requirements. Not only do they look at the prospective recruits playing talent, some even look at genetic lineage. Put bluntly, the athletic ability of their parents and the extent of their athletic ability so far as representative honors are concerned. Sure some make it and some don?t quite cut the mustard, it?s not an exact science. Not yet anyway.
It is also interesting to note how much the football club itself has changed. From the early days of corporate sponsors such as City Ford to the present day sponsorship of global companies such as Samsung. New age marketing lingo such as Brand Recognition has even affected the way teams are presented to the public. It is probably the main reason why Eastern Suburbs Roosters evolved to Sydney Roosters.
How the players are presented to the public is just as important these days. Players these days have a club attire for every occasion. Be it formal, casual or sporting. Ever present is the corporate sponsor logo. Players selected on post match interviews are, for most anyway, articulate and humble if not diplomatic in their views. Post match interviews back in the late 70?s especially after a typical Manly vs Wests clash, would have been interesting to say the least.
And what has become of loyalties between players and their club? It would appear that Rugby League in its present guise would have its affect on the clubs relationship with its playing roster. Sure we still have great club men that have and probably will only play for one team. But the numbers of these men have diminished over time. There seems to be an underlying fault in the system. No doubt that the intentions from the powers that be are noble. But is it fair to the players to leave a club for reasons other than poor performance on or off the field?
Don?t get me wrong, I have nothing against what we have today. The game is faster, the hits are harder and the players fitter. Why wouldn?t they be? With advances in sports science we are able to see athletic abilities developed to their true potential to complement their natural skills
Regardless of these changes over time, one constant in Rugby League is the importance of a player to have ?Passion, Courage & Loyalty?. Looking at the past and present legends of our game I see this as a common thread. It is a trait that is admired by those who follow the sport and characteristics emulated by generations to come. For a player missing these most revered qualities is nothing more than an athlete.
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